Friday 18 October 2019

Colette Browne: 'Our Government cannot allow Brexit charlatans to take us down with them as they sacrifice UK's future'

Effigies of Prime Minister Theresa May, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, current Environment Secretary Michael Gove and former Brexit secretary David Davis, are driven past the Houses of Parliament, London, ahead of the House of Commons vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal. Yui Mok/PA Wire
Effigies of Prime Minister Theresa May, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, current Environment Secretary Michael Gove and former Brexit secretary David Davis, are driven past the Houses of Parliament, London, ahead of the House of Commons vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal. Yui Mok/PA Wire
Colette Browne

Colette Browne

Brexit is a cult supported by fanatics so zealous they would sacrifice Britain's cohesion, security and prosperity at its altar. The only question that remains is, will parliament allow them?

To truly understand the depths Britain has descended to, it is instructive to go back in time to the immediate aftermath of the referendum result and remind ourselves of what was promised.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis was adamant "there will be no downside to Brexit, only a considerable upside".

Environment Secretary Michael Gove assured the public that, after the vote, "we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want".

Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom told voters they had "just rediscovered [their] freedom" and said the government would lead them "to the sunlit uplands".

Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox vowed that agreeing a trade deal with the EU would "be one of the easiest in human history".

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson scoffed at the notion the UK would be forced to pay the EU to exit and advocated it "go whistle" if it came looking for its cash.

Prime Minister Theresa May said she wanted to secure a "red, white and blue Brexit" and said she was "ambitious" about what she could achieve, coining the term "Brexit dividend" to describe the additional spending money that would be available as a consequence of the vote.

So, more than two years later, what have these chief architects and advocates of Brexit achieved?

They have presided over years of bitter division and rancour, raided the exchequer to spend billions on Brexit planning, overseen the loss of £500m a week in lost economic growth, alienated EU citizens who have made Britain their home, and reduced the UK to an isolated laughing stock on the world stage.

Worse, Brexiteers in government refuse to admit they were wrong. They can't even concede they oversold what could be delivered in any Brexit negotiation.

Instead, we have Mr Fox telling the BBC, apparently with a straight face, that Brexit is "survivable" and is not akin to "suicide".

"Brexit, we may get out alive" doesn't quite have the same ring to it as "the easiest trade deal in human history", does it?

Not that those championing Brexit care. They don't give a toss that Brexit is putting jobs, food security, drug availability and the living standards of its citizens at risk.

They appear unconcerned that, following the overwhelming defeat of Theresa May's deal in the House of Commons last night, the country is hurtling towards a catastrophic 'no deal', with no escape route in sight.

Like any brainwashed adherents of a cult, facts and evidence don't matter. The only thing they give credence to is their faith - and their belief in Brexit is such that they are willing to risk it all in service to the cause.

A glib Mr Gove, who formerly boasted the UK "holds all the cards", could only quote from 'Game of Thrones' yesterday, warning "winter is coming" if no deal becomes a reality.

Winter may be coming, but he won't feel the cold. It will be working class British people, those without trust funds and hedge funds, who will bear the brunt.

If politicians could be charged with recklessly endangering a country, then the slack-jawed oafs in the Conservative Party still braying their support for Brexit would be first in the dock.

Having built their careers on decades of maligning the EU, blaming it for societal problems that were actually a result of decisions taken by domestic politicians, they cannot now come clean and admit the EU was just a convenient whipping boy deployed regularly to deflect and absorb public anger.

Large swathes of the British media too have covered themselves in ignominy, wholeheartedly endorsing the Brexit delusion of their gurning political acolytes and printing jingoistic articles in which immigrants were likened to vermin.

While some have expressed sympathy for May, she doesn't deserve it. She is the author of her own downfall.

Having been handed the unenviable task of defining Brexit, she could have opted to try to achieve some kind of consensus in parliament and civil society about what it really meant.

Instead, the prime minister preferred to spout those banal platitudes about a "red, white and blue" Brexit, while also endorsing the harshest and most draconian of red lines, with the result she ended up with a pig's ear of a deal that satisfied nobody.

The tragedy is she was warned - by moderate members of her own party, by senior civil servants, by business leaders and colleagues in the EU - that her approach was unnecessarily combative and rigid, but she refused to listen.

In the words of a former head of the Foreign Office, Simon Fraser, "one of the many sad things about this destructive and humiliating Brexit fiasco is that people with knowledge and experience clearly explained the technical and political complexities from the start", but they were then ridiculed and ignored by these charlatans who really thought they knew better.

The narrative of British exceptionalism, so beloved of British Tories who still harken back to their nation's glory days of empire, couldn't conceive of any notion of failure.

They were supremely confident that they could dictate the terms of their exit deal and a supine EU, comprised of 27 other countries, would doff the cap and agree.

Now that they are learning their place in the world is not as exalted as they once thought, time is running out to mitigate the oncoming disaster.

A majority in parliament may not want to crash out of the EU, but March 29 is a 'drop dead' date - unless some kind of plan is in place by then, or unless the EU agrees to an extension, that is exactly what will happen.

The Irish Government should now heed the lessons of the chaos in Britain and step up 'no deal' planning to ensure that collateral damage in this country is kept to a minimum.

The danger is the Government has been so focused on the negotiations, and attempts to avoid the train crash of Brexit, that it is now woefully unprepared for the aftermath of the impact - and vague memos or plans to hire customs staff don't cut it.

Senior members of the British government may be happy to sacrifice their country in pursuit of Brexit - but we cannot allow them to take us down with them.

Irish Independent

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